JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell, says the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology could be pivotal in the country’s fight against the spread of diseases and in the quest to improve general public health.
  • Mrs. Sewell noted that the use of GIS applications in health mapping has “captured the imagination” of sector stakeholders, who are utilising it for research, planning and disease management.
  • Notwithstanding the technology’s impact in effectively addressing health issues, Mr. Anderson encouraged persons to take responsibility for their health, “whether it’s what we do in preventing vector-borne illnesses or to reduce our risk of chronic diseases”.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development and Job Creation, Audrey Sewell, says the use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology could be pivotal in the country’s fight against the spread of diseases and in the quest to improve general public health.

She noted that GIS maps can assist in identifying disease patterns, risk factors, and sources of pollution as well as facilitate data analysis.

“There is no doubt that GIS will enable us to get a better understanding of patterns, linkages and trends across our nation, region and planet that will enable us to more effectively manage our limited resources and plan for the future,” she said.

Mrs. Sewell’s remarks are contained in a speech delivered by Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Lt. Col. Oral Khan, during the National Spatial Data Management Division’s ninth annual GIS Business Executive Forum, which was held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on Wednesday, November 9.

The event was held under the theme ‘Geospatial Technologies: Advancing Public Health Services’.

Mrs. Sewell noted that the use of GIS applications in health mapping has “captured the imagination” of sector stakeholders, who are utilising it for research, planning and disease management.

She pointed out that “rapidly dwindling borders” globally, giving rise to continuous movement between countries, make it easy for the spread of infectious diseases by vectors and other means.

This, the Permanent Secretary said, was evident in Jamaica by the onset, within the last seven years, of diseases such as the Chikungunya; Zika; H1N1; Dengue Fever; and hand, foot and mouth disease.

In his remarks, Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Fund (NHF), Everton Anderson, noted that GIS technology is an effective decision-making tool that is capable of guiding health-policy development while addressing issues affecting the sector.

He pointed out that the impact of GIS and other technologies in predicting risk-based factors on areas such as the environment, human behaviour and vector categories, is essential to the effective management of vector-borne diseases.

Mr. Anderson said the use of GIS technology will ensure that the funds provided to the Ministry of Health to respond to vector-borne diseases are being effectively used in an environment where resources are not readily available.

Notwithstanding the technology’s impact in effectively addressing health issues, Mr. Anderson encouraged persons to take responsibility for their health, “whether it’s what we do in preventing vector-borne illnesses or to reduce our risk of chronic diseases”.

For her part, Principal Medical Officer and National Epidemiologist in the Health Ministry, Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr, acknowledged the close working relationship shared with the National Spatial Management Division, particularly in combating vector-borne diseases.

She said the Ministry is encouraged by the forum’s theme “which speaks to the inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral collaboration we need to have.”

The forum formed part of activities jointly organised by the National Spatial Data Management Division and Land Information Council of Jamaica, to mark Geography Awareness Week from November 9 to 12.

It was attended by major public- and private-sector health stakeholders for discussions on the use of geospatial technology in fighting the spread of vector-borne diseases and the quest to improve service delivery.